EU leaders announce tough sanctions package against Russia
EU leaders have announced a tough sanctions package against Russia. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday that Russian assets in the EU will be frozen and Russian banks will be cut off from access to financial markets."The EU will adopt the toughest sanctions package it has ever adopted," EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said. Both stressed that the EU will also continue to support Ukraine.
"We stand by Ukraine," Borrell said. The 27 EU heads of state and government will meet later this evening for a special summit.
The U.K. government also plans to put together new sanctions against Russia over its attack on Ukraine before the end of Thursday. "This will be the biggest and heaviest package of economic sanctions Russia has ever seen," Foreign Secretary James Cleverly tells the BBC. "It will be an unprecedented set of punitive measures that we will begin today. But we will also be announcing further sanctions in the coming days."
Do sanctions plans split the EU?
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock announced the toughest sanctions against Russia in a speech this morning. "We will launch the full package with the most massive sanctions against Russia," she said. To this end, she said, Germany will coordinate internationally with the European Union, NATO and the strongest economic powers in the G7 format.
Ukraine had done nothing to justify this attack. Rather, she says, the people of Ukraine have the right to democracy and peace. "President Putin, you will never be able to destroy this dream," Baerbock said. "It is growing in Ukraine, it is also growing in your country." Germany is stunned, but not helpless, she said.The EU's first sanctions package, passed earlier this week, was still considered easy to implement because it primarily affected Russian elites. The measures announced for the event of a Russian invasion, however, will also affect Europe's own financial market.
Despite the need for unanimity in approving sanctions, it is assumed that no EU state wants to act as a brakeman in the face of the Russian invasion. Some member states, however, have already asked for exemptions from financial sanctions, according to research by the New York Times. Austria, for example, whose Raiffeisen Bank has hundreds of branches in Russia, pleaded for Russian banks to be excluded from the planned sanctions.
The Council of Europe also announced further steps. "We will quickly take the necessary measures to respond to the current situation," a letter from Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric said Thursday.
The Council of Europe could use the so-called joint complementary procedure. This is intended for serious breaches of rules by member states and can lead to suspension. According to a Council of Europe spokesman, the Committee of Ministers is to meet for extraordinary consultations later this afternoon.
Pejcinovic Buric called on the Russian authorities to immediately cease hostilities and return to diplomacy. This, he said, should restore peace and prevent further devastating consequences for the entire continent.Protecting the lives of civilians must remain a priority, he said. The head of the Council of Europe condemned the Russian attack. She said it violates the Council of Europe's statutes as well as the European Convention on Human Rights. "This is a dark hour for Europe and for everything it stands for."
The Council of Europe, based in Strasbourg, France, together with its Court of Justice, is responsible for upholding human rights in its 47 member states. It is not an organ of the European Union. Russia and Ukraine are both members of the Council of Europe.
Habeck sees energy markets secure in the long term
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) has also announced further sanctions. There will be concerted action by the U.S. and European states on this, Habeck told ZDF's "Morgenmagazin" on Thursday. "We will see very quickly that we impose economic sanctions together."The measures taken so far have not succeeded in deterring Russian President Vladimir Putin from going to war, Habeck acknowledged. The new sanctions are intended to diminish the Russian people's support for Putin, he said. The goal is to force a return to the diplomatic table," Habeck continued.
In the medium and long term, there was a "good chance" that prices on the energy markets would stabilize at "an acceptable level," Habeck continued. With regard to the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, the economics minister said he did not see that it could be connected to the grid "in the medium and short term."
Ukraine, meanwhile, is asking Turkey to close the Bosporus and the Dardanelles to Russian ships. This was communicated by the Ukrainian ambassador in Ankara, Vasyl Bodnar.The Dardanelles connect the Aegean Sea with the Sea of Marmara and, via the adjacent Bosporus, with the Black Sea. An important shipping route runs across the two straits.Turkey is a NATO member and has a maritime border in the Black Sea with the littoral states of Ukraine and Russia. Under a 1936 treaty, Turkey has control over the straits and can restrict the passage of warships during a war or in case of a threat.